Back To The … Country Kitchen

Blast from my past. This was taken on a disposable film camera because yes those existed.

In May I will be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2019 graduation ceremony at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. This is such a special honor because the Mizzou J-School is c’mon, the best, and it’s also my alma mater.

At my own graduation ceremony, the commencement speaker was so breathtakingly bad that my professor Stacey later told me that he saw a department head, who was sitting on stage, driving his thumb into the opposite hand’s nail bed so hard that he started bleeding. All I remember about the speech’s content was that at one point the old-white-dude-in-the-advertising-biz told us to exercise and eat right. Can’t make this up.

My low bar goal is to outperform him. In preparation I need to draw on specific memories and experiences. The problem is, my brain does not work like Jim Comey’s, who remembers everything linearly and with high specificity. My brain seems to remember the past only in general feelings or vibes I had rather than a tick-tock of how things went down and who said what. For example, I still love and have nothing but warm feelings for Mr. Coates from AP Macro and Micro Econ in high school but I don’t remember anything he taught me except the Laffer Curve and how Arthur Laffer had a problematic theory. (BUT WHAT WAS THAT THEORY!?) To remember a tidbit, it has to be super random and often requires some jogging-of-my-memory to access, like looking at whatever I wrote down at that time.

With roomie Fiscus in our halcyon days of youth. I think this was 2005. Also shot on film.

That was a long windup to say that to write this speech, I downloaded MY OLD XANGA BLOG from my senior year of college and imported the posts here to HeyElise!

When I went down the 2002-2003 rabbit hole, I realized a lot of things, like just how much we went to Country Kitchen to “study,” how awful I was at going to class and how my education in that last year consisted of shooting a lot of television news stories about the 2002 Senate race, to the exclusion of everything else, like a solid liberal arts education.

Also I spent a heavy amount of time watching football, some of my time going to an ab workout class, and a stupid amount of time following around a dude named Ryan, which is regrettable, and WHERE WAS MY ROOMMATE AMY FISCUS TO STOP ME?! FISCUS I AM LOOKING AT YOU.

In other ways, I realized some things have never changed: pop culture-laden snark, going on random last minute trips with whomever, being the biggest fangirl of Brad Hawkins.

Anyway my archives are in the footer of this blog and you, too, can do the time warp! But maybe don’t, because I am going to mine this material for the A+ stuff so it can subtly make appearances in that Class of 2019 commencement speech. As I used to say in 2002, “More to come.”

We Graduated This Weekend, 10 Years Ago

All these fellow Mizzou grads live in Washington and were on my porch. Awesome.
All these fellow Mizzou grads live in Washington and were on my porch. Awesome.

From my Xanga blog, May 19, 2003 (Xanga was a blogging platform back then, okay?):

“So, I’m graduated, and it didn’t feel strange except high school graduation seemed a lot bigger.

My parents had a “So, what are you going to do with your life” talk with me, which means, I should probably get on that at some point. I’ve decided to chill for a few months and then go crazy job hunting in August. Because I like life chapters to be marked by a definitive start and end, I will begin the job hunt phase with a trip to San Diego for a job fair. Fitting, eh?”

This weekend brought back so many crazy wonderful memories about 2003, which marked the end of college and the beginning of whatever this “adult” life I should be leading now. A line from The Office‘s recent series finale actually summed up my thoughts much better than I could:  “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good ol’ days, before you’ve actually left them. Someone should write a song about that.”

The rest of summer of 2003 played out exactly as I described back on my Xanga... we really just partied and chilled for a few months, and it was such a sublime period of zero responsibility that we call it The Lost Summer. I did go to a job fair in San Diego, and most of us found jobs and dispersed by August. I never would have dreamt back then that the last 10 years would be as surprising, interesting and fulfilling as they played out. Or that I’d wind up living and drinking in DC, at least weekly, with so many of the people I loved from college.

Today, I and two of my college besties Beam and Terp (who, fortuitously, also live in Washington now) hosted our fellow Mizzou alumni and other DC pals in a cookout celebrating our Class of 2003 graduation. Everyone got in on the Missouri theme: Friend Joey, who is a master griller, mixed up a signature rub for St. Louis Style ribs. Me and Matty made Jungle Juice, a big hit from my sorority days (which was often made in a bathtub, but we classed it up and made it in a large plastic party tub instead). My dad brought me toasted ravioli (a Missouri fave) from St. Louis to share. Friend Kate made Missouri-shaped cookies but the bootheels kept wanting to break off. Friend Doris brought wine from the Les Bourgeois winery in Rocheport, MO. Friend Patrick got us graduation cards. <grin>

In the spirit of college, we acted a fool, day-drinking to drunkeness, attempting to squeeze through the dog door, singing karaoke from the on-demand karaoke channel and, in proof that we are in 2013 and not 2003, we flew our family drone around in the front yard.

Matty's drone didn't stay up in the air for long. The battery wasn't charged.
Matty’s drone didn’t stay up in the air for long. The battery wasn’t charged.

Birthday Soon and Birthdays Past

Blogger and actress Elizabeth Banks just did a fun post looking back on her birthdays in years past. She encouraged her readers to do the same. It’s perfect timing for me to participate, as the second anniversary of my 29th birthday is in a couple weeks.

Good friends hangin' out at our Costa Rica casa. (Photo by E Brooks)
Good friends hangin’ out at our Costa Rica casa. (Photo by E Brooks)

My Best Birthday Ever was only a year ago…

It involved being in Costa Rica, with 11 amazing people, sharing two idyllic vacation villas, grilling our own food, making fresh guac and eating under the stars, being newly knocked up with the-fetus-that-would-become-Eva, and getting surprised on the actual birth day when the pals all showed up wearing bastardized Costa Rican flag t-shirts with my face on them. (The shirt did lead to a minor snafu at the airport with Costa Rican officials, but we all eventually made it home.)

My Worst Birthday Ever was in sixth grade, when I turned 12.

It started out awesome, with my dad surprising me in the morning with a “dirt cake.” He dumped ice cream into a flower pot and topped it with a layer of oreo cookie crumbles and gummy worms. But that night, when I hosted a little scavenger hunt at the mall, my friends Samantha and Kelly decided to shoplift some rings from JC Penney and got detained by mall security, then slipped out of the questioning room when no one was watching and disappeared. This led to a few frantic hours in which two 6th graders were missing in suburban St. Louis. Birthday FAIL.

My Most Absurd Birthday Ever was when I turned 21.

It involved going to a Ja Rule concert in the basketball stadium at Mizzou. Enough said.

Back When I Blogged Brazenly

“I have no idea what compels me to do these things; I will never understand why I need to write about the events that other people merely experience.” -Chuck Klosterman

The year I started blogging was also the year I dated that Mizzou golf team guy in the gray.
The year I started blogging was also the year I dated that Mizzou golf team guy in the grey shirt.

I started blogging just after Christmas break in late 2000/early 2001. My friend Bryan Mathews, a computer geek who was always ahead of his time, encouraged me to write entries to a software called “Live Journal” because he had built me a website as a gift and it needed content. The wayback machine capture of the site doesn’t seem to have the index page image/design on it anymore, but maybe it was cause he used Flash, which was cool back in the early aughts.

In 2002, when I was studying abroad in Taipei and interning at the Taipei Times, I was still under the impression that blogging was ostensibly secret because who would actually read the nonsense I posted? So I was quite candid on my blog, especially about my mad crush on an American expat writer at the paper. I didn’t name names, but that only made things more fun for the staff, because I later learned they started an office pool to bet on which dude it was. MORTIFYING. I ran home alone from the house party where I learned of this pool and proceeded to delete dozens of posts from my LiveJournal.

In my last year of college at Missouri (which is amazingly 10 — TEN — years ago now), I was using Xanga as a blogging platform. And as it turns out, I was using it a lot. I found my Xanga blog tonight and it’s awesome to read about how I spent my days in 2003. It made me wish I’d been blogging more over the last decade. I’m a nostalgia junkie, after all. It’s why I’ve kept a diary since age six. It’s why I love photos and photographers. It’s probably why I’m a journalist. And now, I feel compelled to recommit myself to personal blogging. Not daily, since keeping up my daughter’s Eva’s daily photo blog takes work, but at a more regular clip.

Maybe this will work, or maybe I’ll lose steam. But we’re so quippy now, with our tweets and status updates and our photo Tumblrs. I want a more substantive artifact for later, and I trust my current blog platform, WordPress, is gonna stick around for awhile.